How do I say goodbye to my boobs with grace?
Anticipatory grief, a prophylactic double mastectomy, and missing my mom
This is my mother’s journal entry following her mastectomy. She was 35 with stage 4 breast cancer.
February 28th, 1997 has come and gone. It was a lovely, sunny, blue day. Diane, Dee Dee, Jan, and Dave were with me to check in and wish me well. When I woke up, the hospital room was filled with people. It felt so good. I can’t remember clearly, but I felt love around me. It’s amazing how great I feel after surgery. It was much easier than delivering Melanie and Mattie, although they were worth all the aches and pains!
It’s now a week later, and I feel sad. My prognosis seems so serious and frightening. Treatment seems incredible. How does a person live through it? Will I live a long, long time after all is said and done? I know I must! My babies need me so much, along with Dave. As I lay with Melanie tonight, she told me how much she didn’t like people to get sick. She does not understand why. She said she is afraid. I cry in the dark and hope she doesn’t feel my fear and sorrow. It is so hard to explain to a 4-year-old why people get chemotherapy- their hair falls out, they are sick, and then get better. What a concept. I am looking for understanding myself. I have one week before my first chemo treatment, and will search out the best way to mentally approach my upcoming treatments. I am seeking clarity, peace within, joy, and comfort. Next time I write, I hope it is with all the above feelings in my heart.
In the final years leading up to my moms death I hoped I’d met the person I’d marry. This may sound somewhat desperate but I wanted my fictional spouse to love my Mom. You can’t love someone you have never met. I have tried. My grandmother died before I was born. From ovarian cancer. It is like trying to love a celebrity. They never make you laugh or hold you when you cry. You can only love a memory or idea of someone so much.
Death is absolute. Pandora’s Box is closed with finality and hope is gone. Anticipatory Grief on the other hand, has held me at cruel angles throughout my life. We have played the “someday maybe game.” since I was 4 years old. Ticking down the clock together, waiting for hope to die and true grief to strike.
Again, I am struggling with anticipatory grief. While struggle is familiar to me it is still confusing and causes anxiety. The new anticipatory grief I’m experiencing is over my choice to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction. This year a genetic test confirmed my BRCA2 gene is mutated.
I’m certain I want a preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction. I’m grateful for this decisiveness. I’m still suffering from the anticipation of this loss and have lots of regular old missing my mom grief mixed in.
An-TIT-ciptory grief anxiety
- I always have hated my nipples. They are too big for my smallish boobs and prevent me from going braless (my own doing, I know). But I don’t enjoy the “are you cold” comments.
- Now my nipples may die. And all the sudden I like them. They are mine. I want to keep them. I want to look like me after this.
- I also want to find someone who loves me prior to this surgery. Someone that loves my real boobs and real nipples before I get my mutant foobs with possibly no nipples. Not someone that will look at photos. Not the memory of my real boobs. Someone that intimately knew each version of me.
- I need to let this go. I really need to let this go. I really need to let this go.
Wanting someone to love you so they can see your regular boobs is NOT normal. Wanting someone to go through this process with me is selfish. But damnit, isn’t dating hard enough? I am exasperated with myself.
I pray to gain some grace.
Grace that comes from being at peace with every version of me.
Grace to help me process the loss of my breasts.
Grace to be brave like my Mama.
Grace to help me focus on the gratitude as I have the opportunity to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer to under 5%.
I wonder, would my mom still be here if she had all the options I do now?